Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 12, 2012


What you can do when everything seems hopeless


          Hopelessness is awful. It robs you of the desire to live and makes you wish you were dead. You feel like strong hands have you by the throat; you can hardly breathe. I know. I have struggled with this demon of the dark. Most of us have. Life is not a cake walk.

            Job is the classic biblical example of one whose trials drove him into the pit of hopelessness. He was a man mired in the ash heap of miserable misfortune. When you read his story your heart breaks for the man. You can hardly fathom the depth of his anguish.

            When we are down and out we like to think that our friends help us. Job had friends but they were not much help. We can identify with the way Job felt about the counsel his friends gave him.  Empty platitudes never assuage our pain. The shallow understanding of friends can sometimes feel like condemnation even when they are trying to help us.

Indeed friends can make matters worse by admonishing us not to feel the way we feel. Real friends affirm us in our pain and give us a glimmer of hope that the night will not last forever. Job’s friends drove him deeper into despair by insisting that he deserved his suffering. What Job needed, and what we all need most, is someone who will help us cling to the idea that there is meaning in our madness.

A man named Elihu did help Job. He challenged him to question his assumptions about God. He helped Job affirm the greatness of God and reminded him that it is the nature of God to be just. So Job recants of having accused God of injustice. He eventually overcomes hopelessness and puts his full trust in God no matter what suffering must be endured.

Where helpful word can we say to our friends when the bottom falls out? The best counsel may be this humorous maxim: “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hold on!” We could strengthen it by adding Jesus to the equation: “When you come to the end of your rope, trust Jesus; let him help you tie a knot in it and hold on!”

Essentially what we need is confidence in God’s power to rescue us. The name “Jesus” means “God to the rescue.” The strange paradox is that by refusing to rescue Jesus from death on the cross, God made it possible for us to be rescued from the kingdom of darkness.

When all seems hopeless we can remember the cross. The cross represents utter hopelessness. Yet God took over and turned the cross into a symbol of hope. He was able to transform defeat into victory and despair into hope. The empty cross reminds us of the resurrection and the Christian hope that death is not the end.

The idea of tying a knot in a rope may seem foolish. If I tie a knot in my rope I am still at the end of it. I am still helpless unless someone rescues me. This is where trust comes in.

To trust God is not only to hold on but also to ask him to hold  my hand. We trust God by hearing him say to us what he said to Isaiah, “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13). Ultimately faith is believing that I can hold on to the rope because God is holding on to me.

To hold on is to trust God’s timetable. When we are in a jam we want God to come immediately. Though he can he seldom does. He waits for us to realize that we cannot save ourselves, that he is our only hope. Then he comes in the moment he has chosen to deliver us. He leaves us no “wiggle room” to suppose we have saved ourselves; he shows us that we are saved by grace and grace alone.

The Psalmist shows us how to overcome despair: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, my Savior and my God” That great verse is in Psalm 42.

Our greatest advantage, of course, is the cross. The Romans on that fateful day looked at Jesus hanging on that cruel cross and thought that was the end of him. But they were wrong. They had no way of knowing that God was using the cross to offer reconciliation to the human race.  

If one day all seems hopeless remember that you can ask Jesus to help you tie a knot in your rope and hold on. He will come. I have bet my life on it! Until he does, hold on! That is the best way to overcome hopelessness.   +  +  +